BOOK: The Extreme Life of the Sea

While I post about a lot of history books, sometimes it’s fun to dig into a simple popular science book, such as this new title:

Stephen R. Palumbi and Anthony R. Palumbi, The Extreme Life of the Sea (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), 256 pp.

The ocean teems with life that thrives under difficult situations in unusual environments. The Extreme Life of the Sea takes readers to the absolute limits of the ocean world–the fastest and deepest, the hottest and oldest creatures of the oceans. It dives into the icy Arctic and boiling hydrothermal vents–and exposes the eternal darkness of the deepest undersea trenches–to show how marine life thrives against the odds. This thrilling book brings to life the sea’s most extreme species, and tells their stories as characters in the drama of the oceans. Coauthored by Stephen Palumbi, one of today’s leading marine scientists, The Extreme Life of the Sea tells the unforgettable tales of some of the most marvelous life forms on Earth, and the challenges they overcome to survive. Modern science and a fluid narrative style give every reader a deep look at the lives of these species.

The Extreme Life of the Sea shows you the world’s oldest living species. It describes how flying fish strain to escape their predators, how predatory deep-sea fish use red searchlights only they can see to find and attack food, and how, at the end of her life, a mother octopus dedicates herself to raising her batch of young. This wide-ranging and highly accessible book also shows how ocean adaptations can inspire innovative commercial products–such as fan blades modeled on the flippers of humpback whales–and how future extremes created by human changes to the oceans might push some of these amazing species over the edge.

Update on “A History of the Ecological Sciences”

Over two-and-a-half years ago I posted the links to a series of articles in the Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America: “A History of the Ecological Sciences.” Then there were 27 installments, all by Frank N. Egerton, and now he’s up to #36 (Update: I added #37-42 on July 30, 2012):

1. A History of the Ecological Sciences. Early Greek Origins. Volume 82(1): 93–97. January 2001

2. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 2: Aristotle and Theophrastos. Volume 82(2):149–152. April 2001

3. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 3: Hellenistic Natural History. Volume 82(3):201–205. July 2001

4. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 4: Roman Natural History. Volume 82(4):243–246. October 2001

5. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 5: Byzantine Natural History. Volume 83(1):89–94. January 2002

6. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 6: Arabic Language Science—Origins and Zoological Writings. Volume 83(2):142–146. April 2002

7. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 7: Arabic Language Science—Botany, Geography, and Decline. Volume 83(4):261–266. October 2002

8. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 8: Fredrick II of Hohenstaufen: Amateur Avian Ecologist and Behaviorist. Volume 84(1):40–44. January 2003

9. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 9: Albertus Magnus, a Scholastic Naturalist. Volume 84(2):87–91. April 2003

10. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 10: Botany During the Renaissance and the Beginnings of the Scientific Revolution. Volume 84(3):130–137. July 2003

11. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 11: Emergence of Vertebrate Zoology During the 1500s. Volume 84(4):206–212. October 2003

12. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 12: Invertebrate Zoology and Parasitology During the 1500s. Volume 85(1):27–31. January 2004

13. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 13: Broadening Science in Italy and England, 1600–1650. Volume 85(3):110–119. July 2004

14. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 14: Plant Growth Studies in the 1600s. Volume 85(4):208–213. October 2004

15. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 15: The Precocious Origins of Human and Animal Demography and Statistics in the 1600s. Volume 86(1):32–38. January 2005

16. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 16: Robert Hooke and the Royal Society of London. Volume 86(2):93–101. April 2005

17. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 17: Invertebrate Zoology and Parasitology During the 1600s. Volume 86(3):133–144. July 2005

18. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 18: John Ray and His Associates Francis Willughby and William Derham. Volume 86(4):301–313. October 2005

19. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 19: Leeuwenhoek’s Microscopic Natural History. Volume 87(1):47–58. January 2006

20. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 20: Richard Bradley, Entrepreneurial Naturalist. Volume 87(2):117–127. April 2006

21. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 21: Réaumur and His History of Insects. Volume 87(3):212–224. July 2006

22. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 22: Early European Naturalists in Eastern North America. Volume 87(4):341–356. October 2006

23. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 23: Linnaeus and the Economy of Nature. Volume 88(1):72–88. January 2007

24. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 24: Buffon and Environmental Influences on Animals. Volume 88(2):146–159. April 2007

25. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 25:American Naturalists Explore Eastern North America: John and William Bartram. Volume 88(3):253–268. July 2007

26. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 26. Gilbert White, Naturalist Extrordinaire. Volume 88(4):385–398. October 2007.

27. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 27: Naturalists Explore Russia and the North Pacific During the 1700s. Volume 89(1):39–60. January 2008

28. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 28: Plant Growth Studies During the 1700s. Volume 89(2);159–175. April 2008

29. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 29: Plant Disease Studies During the 1700s. Volume 89(3). July 2008

30. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 30: Invertebrate Zoology and Parasitology During the 1700s. Volume 89(4). October 2008.

31. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 31: Studies of Animal Populations During the 1700s. Volume 90(2). April 2009.

32. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 32: Humboldt, Nature’s Geographer. Volume 90(3). July 2009.

33. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 33: Naturalists Explore North America, mid-1780s–mid-1820s. Volume 90(4). October 2009.

34. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 34: A Changing Economy of Nature.Volume 91(1). January 2009.

35. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 35: The Beginnings of British Marine Biology: Edward Forbes and Philip Gosse. Volume 91(2). April 2010.

36. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 36: Hewett Watson, Plant Geographer and Evolutionist. Volume 91(3). July 2010.

37. A History of Ecological Sciences, Part 37: Charles Darwin’s Voyage on the Beagle. Volume91(4), October 2010.

38a. A History of Ecological Sciences, Part 38A: Naturalists Explore North America, mid-1820s to about 1840. Volume 92(1), January 2011.

38b. A History of Ecological Sciences, Part 38B: Naturalists Explore North America, 1838–1850s. Volume 92(2), April 2011.

39. A History of Ecological Sciences, Part 39: Henry David Thoreau, Ecologist. Volume 92(3), July 2011.

40. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 40: Darwin’s Evolutionary Ecology. Volume 92(4), October 2011.

41. A History of Ecological Sciences, Part 41: Victorian Naturalists in Amazonia—Wallace, Bates, Spruce. Volume 93(1), January 2012.

42. A History of Ecological Sciences, Part 42: Victorian Naturalists Abroad—Hooker, Huxley, Wallace. Volume 93(2), April 2012.

DISS: Coral reef formation and the sciences of earth, life, and sea, c. 1770-1952

Readers of this blog might like to know about the following recent PhD dissertation, by Alistair Sponsel, now with the Darwin Correspondence Project’s office at Harvard:

Coral reef formation and the sciences of earth, life, and sea, c. 1770-1952

Alistair W. Sponsel, Ph.D., Princeton University, 2009, 498 pages

Abstract I argue that the search for a generally-applicable theory of coral reef formation began in the 1770s and that the pursuit of this type of explanation continued to orient reef research until 1952. The most influential (and still most famous) of these theories was the one proposed by Charles Darwin after the voyage of the Beagle (1831-1836), drawing on his knowledge of hydrography and the work of Alexander von Humboldt. I examine the sources and arguments of this and alternative theories, up to the moment when, by general consensus, Darwin’s theory was proved correct by deep drilling on the atoll of Eniwetok [now Enewetak] in 1952. I interpret the Eniwetok drilling not as a straightforward proof of Darwin’s theory, however, but as the moment when the principle that a single theory would explain all reefs was decisively undermined.

I show that reefs could not easily be classified by the categories of animal, vegetable and mineral, and living and fossil, that oriented much of the study of science, and use my long-term case study to examine the arrangements and re-arrangements of scientific disciplines with respect to these categories. By examining the different practical approaches to studying reef formation, moreover, I show how new “ways of knowing” were integrated with older ones in a continuous tradition of inquiry.

This dissertation analyzes the theories of reef and atoll formation presented by Johann Reinhold Forster on Captain James Cook’s second Pacific voyage, Charles Lyell, Charles Darwin, James Dwight Dana of the United States Exploring Expedition, John Murray of the British Challenger expedition, and Americans Alexander Agassiz, Alfred Goldsborough Mayor, Thomas Wayland Vaughan, William Morris Davis, Reginald Aldworth Daly, and many more. The narrative culminates in work done at Bikini Atoll during Operation Crossroads (1946) and the Bikini Scientific Resurvey (1947) by Harry Ladd, Joshua Tracey, Jr., and Roger Revelle, followed by the drilling at Eniwetok. I trace the role of coral reef science in the development and practice of the scientific disciplines of natural history, natural philosophy, zoology, geology, biology, geomorphology, physical geography or physiography, geophysics, and ecology.

BOOK REVIEW: Tides of History by Michael S. Reidy

I received this book from the publisher last year, so I am now finally able to put up my review. But I also had to read it for my current graduate class on historical writing, taught by Michael Reidy (my advisor and the author of the book!). And the review:

Tides of History by Michael S. Reidy

Tides of History by Michael S. Reidy

Tides of History: Ocean Science and Her Majesty’s Navy. By Michael S. Reidy. Chicago, London: Chicago University Press, 2008. xiv + 389 pp. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $40.00 (cloth).

In an essay in William K. Story’s edited volume Scientific Aspects of European Expansion (Varorium, 1996), historian Alan Frost shows how science conducted in the Pacific during European exploration of the late eighteenth century was essentially political in nature. Scientists acted with their respective nations in mind. Michael S. Reidy extends the notion of science for political purposes into the nineteenth century with Tides of History. But while the book’s subtitle, Ocean Science and Her Majesty’s Navy, underscores the connection between advancements in science and the imperial reach of maritime nations (predominantly Britain), Reidy aims for much more than just showing how the British used science to rule the waves. He has other interests in mind, and it is unfortunate that the title of his book misleads the reader of its primary content. Although Reidy does discuss the Admiralty and how tidal science was crucial to military matters, he is more interested in the scientist himself and his role – in particular one giant of science (William Whewell) and plenty of rather unknowns. Even larger still is Reidy’s contribution to a growing field of ocean history, a fresh understanding of history understood through looking at the spaces in between the land that most histories are focused with.

Much of Tides of History details the history of tidal science – of the data collection itself, and the theoretical understanding of the tides (whether or not it was based on data). The narrative of Reidy’s story, told through scientific publications, letters, and the use images (tables and graphs), almost mirrors the flux and reflux of the tides themselves, the ebb and flow of the seas across the globe. Tidal science, and the reasons for studying it, have shifted in importance to various parties through the centuries. Reidy outlines what has gone before, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, before focusing on the nineteenth century, the highest period of Britain’s imperial expansion, and the regional and global tide experiments in the mid-1830s.

Reidy is fond of metaphors, and they abound in Tides of History. For example, Whewell “helped transform the spatial scope of science while simultaneously expanding the terrain of the scientist” (p. 240). This spatiality is important to Reidy in showing how Whewell transformed the study of tides into a Humboldtian research program, rather than the temporal nature of previous studies. In contrast to earlier and recent works on Whewell, Reidy shows how this evaluator of science in Britain was much more than just a man interested in the work of scientists, but a premier scientist himself. The study of tides, which held Whewell’s interest for more than two decades, also influenced Whewell’s philosophical contributions to science – how science should be done and who should do it. Despite Whewell’s insistence that only certain persons could be scientists – those who strived for theoretical understanding of phenomena – he recognized the efforts and contributions of the often overlooked figures in history. Data collectors, calculators, and computers, doing monotonous and tedious work with ink, provided crucial information for “scientists” to devise their theories with. By looking closely at the role of these “subordinate labourers,” as Whewell referred to them, Reidy gives us a much needed contribution to the history of science, a bottom-up history in a field which too often stresses the importance of the man of science. There were many men (and women) of science, whether or not they were considered “scientists.”

While Reidy succeeds in relating the study of the tides to those with economic interests in using that knowledge – merchants, traders, etc. – what is missing from Tides of History, despite its secondary role to an understanding of the emerging scientist in the early Victorian period, is how the military aspect of the study of the tides was actually used. Examples of how the Admiralty benefited from tidal knowledge, grounded in particular events (if records exist), would surely benefit an understanding of the importance of the study of the tides, and of the relationship of scientists with the larger society. Another mistake in Tides of History, in my opinion, is in the introduction of self-registering tide gauges in Reidy’s narrative. Through reading the text, we know that data collectors observed and marked down numbers concerning the tides. We do not know, however, if and how they utilized technological instruments in carrying out their tasks. So, the invention of the self-registering tide gauge, which made it possible to record data without the hand of a person, becomes not as exciting a turn in the narrative as if the reader truly understood how earlier “subordinated labourers” collected information about the rise and fall of tides.

Despite these few problems, Tides of History is a valuable contribution to understanding the culture of science in the early Victorian period, a time when the role of scientists was becoming more connected with commerce and government, in helping to ensure Britain’s imperialistic success and reaping rewards from it. Taken with Richard Drayton’s Nature’s Government: Science, Imperial Britain and the ‘Improvement’ of the World (Yale University Press, 2000), Tides of History offers a more complete picture of the relationship between science and society – of the political and economic importance of science and the increasingly important role of the scientist – in the nineteenth century. This is a valuable book for those interested in nineteenth-century science, the history of physical sciences, imperialism, environmental history, and maritime history to have on their shelves.

February 2009 Magazines cover Darwin

Be looking forward to the February issues of Natural History, National Geographic, and Smithsonian.

Natural History contains an article (“Seeing Corals with the Eye of Reason,” not online) by Richard Milner about a rediscovered painting that celebrates Darwin’s view of life. Also, Natural History has their own blog that I didn’t know about, but there’s no RSS for it, factotem: findings and musings from Natural History’s fact checker.

Nat Geo, February 2009

Nat Geo, February 2009

National Geographic will have articles by David Quammen, “Darwin’s First Clues,” and Matt Ridley, “Modern Darwins.”  Also, a video with Quammen and a Darwin quiz.

Smithsonian, Febuary 2009

Smithsonian, Febuary 2009

Smithsonian‘s cover story is on Darwin and Lincoln, with three articles: “Lincoln’s Contested Legacy,” “What Darwin Didn’t Know,” and “Twin Peaks” (on their connection).

Asa Gray born, Edward Forbes died today

Asa Gray was born today in 1810. From Today in Science History:

Asa Gray, Born 18 Nov 1810; died 30 Jan 1888. America’s leading botanist in the mid-19th century, extensively studying North American flora, he did more work than any other botanist to unify the taxonomic knowledge of plants of this region. He was Darwin’s strongest early supporter in the U.S.; in 1857, he was the third scientist to be told of his theory (after Hooker and Lyell). He debated L. Agassiz between 1859 and 1861 on variation and geographic distribution. Gray’s discovery of close affinities between East Asian and North American floras was a key piece of evidence in favor of evolution. Though not fully comfortable with selection, he argued that evolution was compatible with religious belief and slid towards theistic evolutionism. Gray co-authored Flora of North America.

Asa Gray at Lefalophodon
Asa Gray Papers at Harvard University Herbaria
Asa Gray: American Botanist, Friend of Darwin by A. Hunter Dupree
“Charles Darwin and Asa Gray Discuss Teleology and Design” by Sara Joan Miles (American Scientific Affiliation)
Memoir of Asa Gray
Correspondence between Asa Gray and Charles Darwin
Re: Design, a play about the correspondence between Gray and Darwin

And naturalist Edward Forbes died on this day in 1854:

Edward Forbes (Died 18 Nov 1854; born 12 Feb 1815). British naturalist, pioneer in the field of biogeography, who analyzed the distribution of plant and animal life of the British Isles as related to certain geological changes. Forbes is considered by many to be the founder of the science of oceanography and marine biology. He studied the fauna of the Aegean Sea and did much to stimulate interest in marine biology. Unfortunately, he is best known for his “azoic theory” (1843), which stated that marine life did not exist on sea beds at depths over 300 fathoms (1800 feet). This was soon to be disproved, (but the desire to test this hypothesis has led to further exploration until, eventually, no depth has been completely unstudied). He became paleontologist to British Geological Survey in 1844.

Previous posts about Forbes here and here.

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

William Beebe (Born 29 July 1877; died 4 June 1962). (Charles) William Beebe was an American biologist, explorer, and writer on natural history who combined careful biological research with a rare literary skill. As director of tropical research for the New York Zoological Society from 1919, he led scientific expeditions to many parts of the world. He was the coinventor of the bathysphere, a spherical diving-vessel for use in underwater observations. In 1934, with Otis Barton, he descended in his bathysphere to a then record depth of 3,028 feet (923 metres) in Bermuda waters on 15 Aug 1934. Later dives reached depths of around 1.5 km (nearly 1 mile).

Charles-Lucien Bonaparte (Died 29 July 1857; born 24 May 1803). (Prince) French zoologist who was a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. From 1822 to 1828, he was in the United States, where he wrote four volumes of American Ornithology (1825-33) adding to the body of work left unfinished by Alexander Wilson at his death. Bonaparte’s scientific reputation was established by these volumes, with which he had the assistance of the artist Titian Peale, who found and painted birds for him from the Rocky Mountains and Florida. In 1848-49, Bonaparte’s scientific career experienced a brief hiatus when he took part in the political agitation for Italian independence against the Austrians and he was forced to leave Italy in July 1849. He went to Holland and then to France.

Today in Science History

My grandfather would have been 89 years old this day. A World War II veteran, amateur geologist, gardener, metal-detector, interested in butterflies , and 60 minutes-watching man, I wish I would have spent more time with him before he passed away in 2002 from pancreatic cancer. He could have taught me things, but I was too busy hanging out with my friends, going to amusement parks, and watching movies. I have two large storage containers full of rocks, magazine clippings, an old microscope and accessories I inherited after he died (also in there, this Life issue and the 1942 National Geographic issue with Charles R. Knight‘s “Parade of Life through the Ages”) out in my storage shed – I’ll get to going through it in the future. Here are two pictures of him on my photo site.

From Today in Science History:

Jacques-Yves Cousteau (Born 11 Jun 1910; died 25 Jun 1997). French naval officer, oceanographer, marine biologist and ocean explorer, known for his extensive underseas investigations. He was co-inventor of the aqualung which made SCUBA diving possible (1943). Cousteau the developed the Conshelf series of manned habitats, the Diving Saucer, a process of underwater television and numerous other platforms and specialized instruments of ocean science. In 1945 he founded the French Navy’s Undersea Research Group. He modified a WWII wooden hull minesweeper into the research vessel Calypso, in 1950. An observation dome added to the foot of Calypso‘s bow was found to increase the ship’s stability, speed and fuel efficiency.

Mary Jane Rathbun (Born 11 Jun 1860; died 4 Apr 1943). American marine zoologist known for establishing the basic taxonomic information on Crustacea. For many years she was the Smithsonian’s complete department of marine invertebrates where she studied, cataloged, and preserved specimens. Through her basic studies and published works, she fixed the nomenclature of Crustacea and was the recognized, and the much sought after, authority in zoology and carcinology (thestudy of crustacea). When the department needed an assistant, she resigned as superintendent and used her salary to hire someone. She continued to work without pay as a dedicated volunteer carcinologist. She published over 160 papers on a wide variety of scientific subjects.

Leland Ossian Howard (Born 11 Jun 1857; died 1 May 1950). American entomologist noted for pioneering efforts in applied entomology and his experiments in the biological control of harmful insects. He is regarded as the founder of agricultural and medical entomology. He proposed that natural enemies rather than pesticides be used for controlling pests. Howard was head of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture for over 30 years. He described 20 new species of mosquitoes, and 47 new groups of parasitic wasps. Howard revealed that houseflies carry and transmit many diseases. He was the first to suggest covering standing water with oil to control egg-laying by mosquitoes and kill larvae to reduce disease transmission. His work led to belief that great natural balances are mainly due to the action of the parasites.

Alfred Newton (Born 11 Jun 1829; died 7 Jun 1907). British zoologist, one of the foremost ornithologists of his day. In 1866, he was appointed the first Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy at Cambridge University. Despite the fact that he suffered from diseased hip joints and walked with the aid of two sticks, he traveled throughout Lapland, Iceland, the West Indies, and North America 1854-63. During these expeditions he studied ornithology and became particularly interested in the great auk. He was instrumental in having the first Acts of parliament passed for the protection of birds. He wrote a great deal on the subject, including a 4-volume Dictionary of Birds, and the articles on Ornithology in several 19th century editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Roger Bacon (Died 11 Jun 1292; born c.1219). English scholar who was one of the first to propose mathematics and experimentation as appropriate methods of science. He studied mathematics, astronomy, optics, alchemy, and languages. He elucidated the principles of refraction, reflection, and spherical aberration, and described spectacles, which soon thereafter came into use. He developed many mathematical results concerning lenses, proposed mechanically propelled ships, carriages, and flying machines, and used a camera obscura to observe eclipses of the Sun. Bacon was the first European give a detailed description of the process of making gunpowder.

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Katherine Esau (Died 4 June 1997; born 3 Apr 1898). Russian-born American botanist who did groundbreaking work in the structure and workings of plants. She is best known for her research into the effects of viruses upon plant tissues, and her studies of plant tissue structures and physiology. Her research into plant viruses focused on how viruses effect the structure and development of a plant’s phloem (its food-conducting tissue). This research enabled her to distinguish between primary and secondary viral symptoms, allowing studies of viral damage to specific plant tissues to be conducted. In addition, she clarified the development phases of plant tissues, particularly the sieve tubes which serve to move solutes throughout a plant. Her definitive work Plant Anatomy (1953, rev.1965) is a classic.

William Beebe (Died 4 June 1962; born 29 July 1877). (Charles) William Beebe was an American biologist, explorer, and writer on natural history who combined careful biological research with a rare literary skill. As director of tropical research for the New York Zoological Society from 1919, he led scientific expeditions to many parts of the world. He was the coinventor of the bathysphere, a spherical diving-vessel for use in underwater observations. In 1934, with Otis Barton, he descended in his bathysphere to a then record depth of 3,028 feet (923 metres) in Bermuda waters on 15 Aug 1934. Later dives reached depths of around 1.5 km (nearly 1 mile).

The Remarkable Life of William Beebe: Explorer and Naturalist, by Carol Grant Gould.

"What’s New" at Darwin Online

These were added to The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online between May 1 and 13, 2008:

New colour images of: [1835]. [Extracts from letters addressed to Professor Henslow]. Image PDF

New colour images of: Blomefield, Leonard Jenyns. 1887. Chapters in my life. Bath: [privately printed]. Text Image PDF A new Darwin recollection

‘Admissions 1818-1828’. Christ’s College, Cambridge. Images New images of the complete book.

Huxley, T. H. 1860. On species and races, and their origin. The Medical Circular No. 401 (7 March): 149-150. Text Image

Waterhouse, F. H. 1878. [Coleoptera collected by Charles Darwin]. Nature 19 (19 December): 162. Text Image

Waterhouse, F.H. 1879. Descriptions of new Coleoptera of geographical interest, collected by Charles Darwin, Esq. Journal of the Linnean Society. Zoology 14: 530-534. Text Image

Cockerell, T.D.A. 1932. Bees collected by Charles Darwin on the voyage of the ‘Beagle’. Journal of the New York Entomological Society 40 (December): 519-522. Text Image

Funkhouse, W.D. 1934. A new membracid collected by Charles Darwin (Homoptera). Entomological News 45 (8) (October): 203-204. Text Image

Bryant, G. E. 1942. New species of Chrysomelidae, Halticinae (Coleopt.), collected by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the ‘Beagle’, 1832-1836. Annals and Magazine of Natural History (Ser. 11) 9: 99-107. Text Image

Wilder, B. G. 1880. The two kinds of vivisection—sentisection and callisection [forwarded to Nature by Darwin]. Nature 22 (30 September): 517-518. Text Image

Rosen, B. 1982. Darwin, coral reefs, and global geology. BioScience 32 (6): 519-525. Text Image PDF [Source of the well-known ‘Darwin was right!’ sign placed by a borehole on a coral atoll.]

Today in Science History: some geologists and botanists were born

Born this day:

George Julius Poulett Scrope (Born 10 Mar 1797; died 19 Jan 1876). English geologist, political economist and Member of Parliament. He took an early amateur interest in geology and volcanology, and his work helped disprove the Neptunist theory that all Earth’s rocks were of oceanic sedimentary origin believed by a number of early 19th century geologists. He studied volcanic features in Italy, Sicily and Germany, and especially in central France and wrote Considerations on Volcanoes (1825) and Memoir on the Geology of Central France (1827). It was by his observations on the erosion of valleys by rivers, that he was able to extend and confirm the views of Hutton and Playfair. His birth name of Thompson became Scrope in 1821 when he married the daughter of the earl William Scrope.

John Playfair (Born 10 Mar 1748; died 20 Jul 1819). Scottish mathematician, physicist, and geologist who is remembered for his axiom that two intersecting straight lines cannot both be parallel to a third straight line. His Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802) gave strong support to James Hutton’s principle of uniformitarianism, essential to a proper understanding of geology. Playfair was the first scientist to recognise that a river cuts its own valley, and he cited British examples of the gradual, fluvial origins of valleys, to challenge the catastrophic theory (based on the Biblical Flood in Genesis) that was still widely accepted. He was also the first to link the relocation of loose rocks to the movement of glaciers. Playfair published texts on geometry, physics, and astronomy.

Died this day:

Sir C. Wyville Thomson (Died 10 Mar 1882; born 5 Mar 1830). Sir C(harles) Wyville Thomson was a Scottish naturalist who was one of the first marine biologists to describe life in the ocean depths. He led the famous 110,224-km (68,890 mile) scientific expedition of HMS Challenger in (1872-6) which trawled the depths of the oceans for new forms of life. This was the world’s first foray into big science. The expedition was to circumnavigate the world in the steam corvette, HMS Challenger, with a goal, as resolved by the British Association (1871) of “carrying the physical and biological Exploration of the deep-sea into all the great oceanic centres”. The extensive biological collections, together with soundings, bottom samples, and chemical and physical observations, presented the first broad view of the character of the oceans.

John Torrey (Died 10 Mar 1873; born 15 Aug 1796). American botanist and chemist known for his extensive studies of North American flora. The first professional botanist in the New World, Torrey published extensively on the North American flora, advocated the “natural system” of classification that was replacing Linnaeus’ artifical system, and collaborated for many years with his student Asa Gray (who was to become an important botanist). Torrey never was able to make a living from botany and worked (among other things) as a freelance chemical analyst. Unidentified plants collected on government expeditions to the western states were sent to him for study, however, as a foremost authority of his time. A genus of evergreen trees, Torreya, is named for him.

Rembert Dodoens (Died 10 Mar 1585; born 29 Jun 1516/17). Flemish physician and botanist whose Stirpium historiae pemptades sex sive libri XXX (1583) is considered one of the foremost botanical works of the late 16th century. In this work, he divided plants into 26 groups and introduced many new families, adding a wealth of illustration. He was the first Belgian botanist of world-wide renown. He studied at Louvain and visited medical schools in France, Italy and Germany and finally became doctor and court physician to Maximillian II (1574). His Cruydt boeck (1554) is beautifully. The text is in ancient Flemish, which later translated in French, English, and Latin. Cruydt is a Flemish word meaning “spices” and other herbs used for cooking and conserving food; by extension, it also means medicinal herbs.

Born This Day: C. Wyville Thomson, naturalist of HMS Challenger

Born this day:

Sir C. Wyville Thomson (Born 5 Mar 1830; died 10 Mar 1882). Sir C(harles) Wyville Thomson was a Scottish naturalist who was one of the first marine biologists to describe life in the ocean depths. He led the famous 110,224-km (68,890 mile) scientific expedition of HMS Challenger in (1872-6) which trawled the depths of the oceans for new forms of life. This was the world’s first foray into big science. The expedition was to circumnavigate the world in the steam corvette, HMS Challenger, with a goal, as resolved by the British Association (1871) of “carrying the physical and biological Exploration of the deep-sea into all the great oceanic centres”. The extensive biological collections, together with soundings, bottom samples, and chemical and physical observations, presented the first broad view of the character of the oceans.

Today in Science History

Born this day:

Henry Wetherbee Henshaw (Born 3 Mar 1850; died 1 Aug 1930). Naturalist

Sir John Murray (Born 3 Mar 1841; died 16 Mar 1914). Scottish naturalist who, as one of its founders, coined the name oceanography. He studied ocean basins, deep-sea deposits, and coral-reef formation. As a marine scientist, he took part in the Challenger Expedition (1872-76), the first major oceanographic expedition of the world. He was first to observe the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the existence of marine trenches. He attempted with Buchan to construct from temperature and salinity observations a qualitative theory of water movement in the world’s oceans. With A. Agassiz, he put forward a modified hypothesis for coral reef development, arguing against Darwin’s hypothesis and suggesting that subsidence was not always a controlling mechanism. He died in 1914, killed by a motor car.

Died this day:

Sewell Wright (Died 3 Mar 1988; born 21 Dec 1889). American geneticist, one of the founders of modern theoretical population genetics. He researched the effects of inbreeding and crossbreeding with guinea pigs, and later on the effects of gene action on inherited characteristics. He adopted statistical techniques to develop evolutionary theory. Wright is best known for his concept of genetic drift, called the Sewell Wright effect – that when small populations of a species are isolated, out of pure chance the few individuals who carry certain relatively rare genes may fail to transmit them. The genes may therefore disappear and their loss may lead to the emergence of new species, although natural selection has played no part in the process.

Johann Christian Fabricius (Died 3 Mar 1808; born 7 Jan 1745). Danish entomologist who was one of the great entomologists of the 18th century. After studying with Swedish naturalist Linnaeus, Fabricius travelled widely in Europe to see insect collections and produced many publications describing all the new species that he saw. He named and classified some 10,000 species of insects. The system of classification of insects he developed was based on mouth structure (instead of wing). He offered theories, progressive for his time, suggesting that hybridization could produce produce new species or varieties, and that environmental adaptation could influence changes in anatomical structure or function.

Robert Hooke (Died 3 Mar 1703; born 18 July 1635). English physicist, born Freshwater, Isle of Wight, who discovered the law of elasticity, known as Hooke’s law. He was a virtuoso scientist whose scope of research ranged widely, including physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology, geology, architecture and naval technology. Hooke invented the balance spring for clocks; served as Chief Surveyor and helped rebuild London after the Great Fire of 1666; invented or improved meteorological instruments such as the barometer, anemometer, and hygrometer. He authored the influential Micrographia, the first book on microscopy (1665).

Matthias de L’Obel (Died 3 Mar 1616; born 1538). French physician and botanist whose Stirpium adversaria nova (1570; written in collaboration with Pierre Pena) was a milestone in modern botany, a collection of notes and data on 1,300 plants that he had observed and gathered in France and England. In this book, he argued that botany and medicine must be based on thorough, exact observation. L’Obel divided plants according to the form of their leaves. His two professions were closed related, as most medicines derived from plants. Thus, l’Obel managed several gardens of herbs, and wrote on them. The popular garden perennial Lobelia was named by Linneaus for him. (De l’Obel is French for “of the white poplar” and his family coat of arms was a poplar leaf.)

Today in Science History

Born today:

William Starling Sullivant (Born 15 Jan 1803; died 30 Apr 1873). American botanist who was the foremost U.S. bryologist in his time. Sullivant graduated in the same year his father died, and took over his surveying business. He began studying and the plant life of central Ohio and published A Catalogue of Plants, Native and Naturalized, in the Vicinity of Columbus, Ohio (1840). When he expanded his interest to the bryophytes (mosses and liverworts), he cataloged not only specimens from the U.S., but also Central America, South America, and various Pacific Ocean islands. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1872. The moss Sullivantia ohioensis was named in his honour.

Died today:

Alpheus Hyatt (Died 15 Jan 1902; born 5 Apr 1838). U.S. zoologist and paleontologist who studied invertebrate fossil records, the evolution of the cephalopods (a class of mollusks including squids and octopuses) and the development of primitive organisms. Along with E. Cope, he was the most prominent American neo-Lamarckian. Based on the analogy of ontogeny with phylogeny, Hyatt claimed that lineages, like individuals, had cycles of youth, old age, and death (extinction). Decline was programmed in. As maturity leads to old age, the best individuals die, leaving the worst to see the end. This idea became the bulwark of orthogenetic theories in the U.S. Hyatt was the founder and first editor of the American Naturalist, and first president of Woods Hole laboratory.

Jean-Baptiste-Julien d’ Omalius d’Halloy (Died 15 Jan 1875; born 16 Feb 1783). Belgian geologist who was an early proponent of evolution. From his youth he pursued geological researches. He was one of the pioneers of modern geology who determined the stratigraphy of the Carboniferous and other rocks in Belgium and the Rhine provinces, and also made detailed studies of the Tertiary deposits of the Paris Basin. As noted by Charles Darwin in the preface of Origin of the Species: “In 1846 the veteran geologist … Halloy published … his opinion that it is more probable that new species have been produced by descent with modification than that they have been separately created: the author first promulgated this opinion in 1831.” Even in his ninety-first year Halloy made a scientific expedition alone, which exertion contributed to his death.

Born yesterday (Jan. 14):

Matthew Fontaine Maury (Born 14 Jan 1806; died 1 Feb 1873). As a U.S. naval officer, Maury was a pioneer hydrographer. He was the first person to undertake a systematic and comprehensive study of the ocean. His work on oceanography and navigation led to an international conference (Brussels, 1853) the first ever of its kind in the world. In 1855, during the Western gold rush, Maury’s updated information helped sea captains cut a ship’s average travel time from New York to San Francisco from 180 to 133 days. That same year, Maury prepared a report that proved the practicality — and assured the success — of the first trans-Atlantic cable between the United States and Europe. Maury was director of the U.S. Naval Observatory from 1844 to 1861.

Adolphe-Théodore Brongniart (Born 14 Jan 1801; died 18 Feb 1876). French botanist whose classification of fossil plants, which drew surprisingly accurate relations between extinct and existing forms prior to Charles Darwin’s principles of organic evolution, earned him distinction as the founder of modern paleobotany. He was an early proponent of evolutionary theory. Brongniart published the first complete account of fossil plants (1828). His interpretations of the fossil record also contributed to our understanding of historical changes in climates and plant geography. He was the son of Alexandre Brogniart.

Catching Up with Today in Science History

Born Dec. 16:

Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (Born 16 Dec 1805; died 10 Nov 1861). French zoologist noted for his work studying anatomical abnormalities in humans and lower animals, for which he coined the term “teratology” in 1832. Although his father, Étienne, had initiated such studies, Isidore was the first to publish an extensive study of teratology, organising all known human and animal malformations taxonomically in Histoire générale et particulière des anomalies de l’organisation chez l’homme et les animaux. This taxonomy of mutants paralleled the Linnean system of natural species: assigning to each a class, order, family, genus, and even species. Many of the principles governing abnormal development were enunciated for the first time in this work. Many of hundreds of names for specific malformations are still in use.

Died Dec. 16:

Thomas Pennant (Died 16 Dec 1798; born 14 Jun 1726). Welsh naturalist and traveller, one of the foremost zoologists of his time. He was a prolific author of natural history and topographical works. His first book was the 1766 folio, British Zoology. Further works of natural history appeared over the years including the Synopsis of Quadrupeds, Arctic Zoology, Genera of Birds, and Indian Zoology. Pennant believed in meticulous research and preparation and in the importance of high quality illustrations. He popularized and promoted the study of natural history, though on the whole he was not a propounder of new theories. Pennant is best known for his travels and extensive writings about touring in Wales, her language, people, history and landscape.

Born Dec. 17:

Alexander Agassiz (Born 17 Dec 1835; died 27 Mar 1910). Alexander (Emmanuel Rodolphe) Agassiz was a Swiss marine zoologist, oceanographer, and mining engineer. He moved to the U.S. in 1849 to join his father, naturalist Jean Louis Agassiz, and studied at Harvard for degrees both in civil engineering (1857) and zoology (1862). Alexander Agassiz made important contributions to systematic zoology, to the knowledge of ocean beds, and to the development of the copper mines of Lake Superior (1866-9). He was curator of Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology (1873-85), founded by his father. He made numerous oceanographic zoological expeditions, wrote many books and examined thousands of coral reefs to refute Darwin’s ideas on atoll formation. [See Reef Madness]

Died Dec. 17:

Lord Kelvin (Died 17 Dec 1907; born 26 Jun 1824). (baron) Born as William Thomson, he became an influential physicist, mathematician and engineer who has been described as a Newton of his era. At Glasgow University, Scotland, he was a professor for over half a century. The name he made for himself was more than just a temperature scale. His activities ranged from being the brains behind the laying of a transatlantic telephone cable, to attempting to calculate the age of the earth from its rate of cooling. In 1892, when raised to the peerage as Baron Kelvin of Largs, he had chosen the name from the Kelvin River, near Glasgow. [See this post at The Red Notebook on Kelvin and Darwin, and Kelvin is one of this week’s featured biography at ODNB’s website]

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Died This Day: Sir George Darwin (Died 7 Dec 1912; born 9 Jul 1845). Sir George (Howard) Darwin, the second son of the famous biologist Charles Darwin, was an English astronomer who championed a theory (no longer accepted) that the Moon was once part of the Earth, in what is now the Pacific Ocean. His was the first mathematical analysis of the evolution of Earth’s Moon. He suggested that since the effect of the tides has been to slow the Earth’s rotation and to cause the Moon to recede from the Earth, then by extrapolating back 4.5 billion years ago the Moon and the Earth would have been very close, with a day being less than five hours. Before this time the two bodies would actually have been one, until the Moon was torn away from the Earth by powerful solar tides that would have deformed the Earth every 2.5 hours.

On This Day: In 1872, the H.M.S. Challenger embarked from Portsmouth, England on the world’s first scientific voyage around the world. Physicists, chemists, and biologists collaborated with expert navigators to map the sea. The Challenger was a corvette class ship, a military vessel that traveled under sail but had auxiliary steam power. The ship was fitted with a natural history laboratory where specimens were examined, identified, dissected and drawn; a chemistry laboratory; and scientific equipment. During the 4 year journey, ending on 24 May 1876, the voyage zig-zagged around the globe to visit every continent, sounded the ocean bottom to a depth of 26,850-ft, found many new species, and provided collections for scores of biologists.